Four new movies to see this week

The Many Saints of Newark, The Alpinist, The Green Knight and The Starling

Michael Gandolfini and Jon Bernthal in The Many Saints of Newark

Michael Gandolfini and Jon Bernthal in The Many Saints of Newark

 

THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK ★★★☆☆
Directed by Alan Taylor. Starring Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr, Corey Stoll, Michael Gandolfini, Billy Magnussen, Ray Liotta, Jon Bernthal Vera Farmiga, Billy Magnussen, Gabriella Piazza. 16 cert, gen release, 120 min
Just as The Sopranos enjoyed bouncing its protagonist between women – his domineering mother, his psychotherapist, his daughter, his many goomahs –k and asking for the real Tony Soprano to stand up, this prequel to the world-conquering TV show mediates a younger Tony (Michael Gandolfini, son of James) through an array of father figures. For fans of the show, Saints is a treasure trove of lore and old favourites. Unhappily, the women are sidelined and brutalised more than contemporaneous detail demands. Even Farmiga’s Livia is given curiously few scenes. Feels a bit like a pilot episode. TB

THE ALPINIST ★★★★☆
Directed by Peter Mortimer, Nick Rosen. Featuring Marc-André Leclerc.12A cert, limited release, 93 min

Marc-André Leclerc in The Alpinist
Marc-André Leclerc in The Alpinist

Thrilling, occasionally gut-churning documentary concerning Canadian climber Marc-André Leclerc. He is obsessive, but kind and open. He is helpful to the film-makers, but prone to veering off on his own without warning. “It wouldn’t be solo if somebody else was there,” he says of one climb that remained unrecorded. Few so potentially infuriating men have come across as so likable. We don’t really learn why anyone would seek out such danger, but we do get a sense of the near-religious fervour that drives such people. Worth seeing on a scary big screen. DC

 THE GREEN KNIGHT ★★★☆☆
Directed by David Lowery. Starring Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris, Ralph Ineson. 16 cert, limited release, 130 min

Dev Patel in The Green Knight
Dev Patel in The Green Knight

Lowery, one of contemporary cinema’s greatest directors, aims high with his tale of Gawain (the marvellous Patel), a whoring, hardly noble knight with a claim to King Arthur’s throne.  For every indelible image and scene – Erin Kellyman’s ghostly St Winifred seeking her head is marvellous to behold – there’s another that clangs. The entirety of the penultimate section, featuring Vikander in one of two roles, should have been filleted from the movie. There is plenty to mull over, but the spirit of Monty Python and the Holy Grail is too visible. TB

THE STARLING ★☆☆☆☆
Directed by Theodore Melfi. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Kevin Kline, Timothy Olyphant, Daveed Diggs, Skyler Gisondo, Laura Harrier, Rosalind Chao. Netflix, 103 min

Chris O’Dowd and Melissa McCarthy in The Starling
Chris O’Dowd and Melissa McCarthy in The Starling

Chris and Melissa play a couple dealing indifferently with bereavement – he is in a mental facility; she seeks rapprochement with a hostile bird – in this disgracefully mawkish drama for Netflix. Both leads try hard. If our stomachs must churn to the ever greater attenuations of a fragile avian metaphor, then better with the old pals from Bridesmaids than almost anybody else. But neither can make sense of the film’s tonally drunk stagger from light comedy to raw tragedy to powerful emetic. Watch Naomi Watts in the similar, much more effective Penguin Bloom instead. DC

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